Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has ruled out a national day to mark Ireland’s Great Famine -- in case “nobody turns up”.
The collapse of the potato crop between 1845 and 1848 resulted in the death of one million Irish people and the emigration of one million others.
In a week in which republicans marked the anniversaries of the deaths of Irish patriots James Connolly and Bobby Sands, Ahern told the Dublin parliament that such events could be honoured as part of the National Day of Commemoration, which already remembers Irish people who died in wars and on United Nations service.
“As soon as you have a single day for anything, there will be 10 or 15 others who will make excellent arguments [for other historical events] backed up by eminent historians,” he said.
“There’s nothing worse than organising commemorations and then nobody turns up.
“It’s almost disrespectful and that has happened in the past.”
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny called for the issue to be revisited again by an all-party Oireachtas committee.
“The Famine is a central feature of the history of our country and it formed the kind of people that we are,” he said.
BOBBY SANDS REMEMBERED
On the 24th anniversary of the death of hunger striker Bobby Sands MP, Jake Jackson, a former Blanketman and cellmate of Bobby Sands in Long Kesh, spoke of the legacy of Sands’ death yesterday at the rededication of a mural on the Falls Road in Belfast to Bobby Sands and the hunger strikers.
He said: “I’m glad to be here today, 24 years after Bobby Sands died on hunger-strike, to defend the Irish freedom struggle and to defend republicanism. Bobby and his nine comrades died on hunger strike and it was a catalytic event which changed the course of Irish history. I think tomorrow again, in Bobby’s own words, everyone has their own particular part to play and no part is too great or too small.
Speaking on Thursday’s elections, Mr Jackson added: “Right across the Six Counties there will be young people and old people and people just about my age who will be out on the stumps from half-six in the morning to half-ten or half-eleven at night and what they’re going to deliver is a resounding mandate for Sinn Féin which is going to change the course of politics on this island yet again.
“It’s kind of fitting that on Bobby Sands’ anniversary we’re going to the polls and as Bobby himself said, our revenge is going to be the laughter of our children.”
An event was also held in west Belfast last week to mark the 89th anniversary of the death of 1916 Rising leader James Connolly.
Speaking at the event at the corner of the Whiterock and Falls Roads in West Belfast, where Connolly used to live, Mr. Adams called on republicans and socialists in Belfast to begin planning events now to mark James Connolly’s 90th anniversary next year.
“James Connolly came to Belfast in 1911 as Belfast Organiser of the ITGWU [trade union], said Mr Adams. “He remained in the city for two years until he returned to Dublin to help in the 1913 Lockout and was instrumental in the establishment of the Irish Citizens Army.
“He was a republican and a socialist who believed that a radical alternative was possible. Our demands, as James Connolly put it back then, remain most moderate -- ‘We only want the Earth. Together we can achieve it.’